Skip to content

Local Authority round-up 03/07/20

Our Local Authority round up provides brief summaries of topical information on a weekly basis, to keep you aware of the changes and updates relevant to you.


Face to face trade talks take place

The latest round of trade talks took place in Brussels this week which were the first talks in person since the coronavirus outbreak. The talks ended a day early as the UK and EU continue to have serious differences over a post-Brexit trade deal. The EU said it would not agree to a deal without “robust” guarantees on the so-called “level playing field” for competition between business whilst the UK wants to negotiate separate agreements in areas such as fisheries, alongside a basic free trade deal. Following this week’s talks David Frost said they had “underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues. We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement.” Michel Barnier also said “serious divergences remain,” although the EU believed an agreement was still possible. Further discussions are planned to take place in London next week and an additional five weeks of in person talks have been scheduled to take place in July and August.

For more information please click here.


Government announces new support package for councils

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a new support package to help councils respond to coronavirus and ensure their financial sustainability. Under the package, the government will provide a further £500 million to councils to help them cope with the financial pressures they are facing. The funding will not be ring-fenced so that councils can use the money where it is needed based on the needs of their local areas. He also announced a new scheme which will reimburse councils for lost income and allow council and business rates tax deficits to be repaid over 3 years instead of 1. Where losses are more than 5% of a council’s planned income from sales, fees and charges, the government will cover them for 75p in every pound lost. He also said that in the next Spending Review, the government will determine what support councils need to help them meet the pressures of income loss from council tax and business rates. Mr Jenrick said “This government will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with councils and communities as we recover from this pandemic as we renew our commitment to unite and level up the country.”

For more information please click here.

Sexual violence and domestic abuse charities receive further funding

548 sexual violence and domestic abuse charities across England and Wales are to receive a further £22 million of funding. The funding is being provided to enable them to employ more staff, keep helplines open longer and fund the technology needed for other forms of contact with victims such as video calls. A further £3 million per annum will also be invested in Independent Sexual Violence Advisers until 2022. APCC Victims Leads, Deputy Mayor of London, Sophie Linden, and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner of North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, said “This funding is vital to ensure that services continue to be available during the Covid-19 crisis, to provide support to those who are amongst the most vulnerable victims. We look forward to working with government to ensure that there is essential funding in place for these services throughout the duration of the Covid 19 crisis and beyond.”

For more information please click here.


Local lockdowns can be imposed

Existing emergency powers are being used in order to impose local lockdown measures where there is a spike in coronavirus cases. England’s chief medical officer is able to advise a minister that a local lockdown is required or where only a certain premise has an outbreak then the local director of public health and the Health and Safety Executive may decide to lockdown the premises. The first local lockdown has already been enforced in Leicester due to the high number of confirmed cases in the area. This means that people in that area will now have to stay home as much as they can, non-essential businesses have had to shut again, schools are closed for all but children of “critical workers” and those classed as vulnerable, non-essential travel should be avoided and the relaxation rules, due to come into force on 4 July such as the reopening of pubs, will not apply in the area. As of now, the statutory instrument which imposes the lockdown has not been published but it is expected that in due course powers will be given to councils in order to lock down areas where there are a high number of coronavirus cases in order to prevent further spread.

For more information please click here.

Planning and housing

Improved access to housing for veterans

Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP has announced new measures which provide improved access to social housing for members of the Armed Forces and veterans suffering from mental ill health and their families. Those people will be exempted from rules requiring them to be a local resident before being given social housing in the area to ensure they are not disadvantaged when applying. Councils should now give priority to those people for social housing in their area and the government has issued guidance to councils to ensure a consistent approach is taken across councils in how they consider social housing applications. Councils are also encouraged to provide staff-training so they understand the circumstances of the Armed Forces community and consider their housing needs appropriately. Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer MP said “This new guidance is the Armed Forces Covenant in action – government ensuring that the whole armed forces family can more easily access public services. The unique circumstances of veterans and service families will now more readily be taken into account when allocating housing and I’m proud that we’re announcing these measures on Armed Forces Day.”

For more information please click here.

Planning reforms announced

Boris Johnson has announced reforms to the planning system due to come into force in September to make it easier to build better homes in a move to kick start the construction industry and speed up rebuilding. Under the new rules, existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily as under the new rules, more types of commercial premises will have the ability to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order, a wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application, builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes and property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation. The government also announced that it will be launching a planning Policy Paper in July which will set out plans for a comprehensive reform of England’s planning system in order to introduce a new approach that works better in today’s society.

For more information please click here.

Coronavirus impacts house building

Research carried out by Savills for Shelter predicts that this year 84,000 fewer homes will be built due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It predicts that this year only 171,000 homes will be built in 2020/21 which is a drop from the 255,000 homes which were built last year. The impact of this could mean that as many as 116,000 construction jobs will be lost as a result. Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said “As the government prepares a major push on infrastructure and investment, it has a perilously short window to avert a lengthy housebuilding crash that will wipe out tens of thousands of new homes and jobs. By bringing forward planned spending and building social housing the government has the chance to avert disaster.” Shelter is now calling for the government to bring forward the £2.2 billion Affordable Homes programme and spend it in the next two years on building social homes in order to minimise the homes lost.

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this update, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

Follow us on LinkedIn

Keep up to date with all the latest updates and insights from our expert team

Take me there

What we're thinking